Friday, December 18, 2009


Call it an ego thing, but I have flagged the Google search engine to send me an email with a link every time my name, Gerald Andersen, appears somewhere on the internet.

This would not work if your name was John Smith as you would be inundated with emails. Oddly, there seem to be very few other Gerald Andersens kicking around out there. An actor goes by that name, and often I get references to him. Mostly what I get is mentions of me. A lot of it is older stuff from my working days at the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association and Neckwear Association of America. Why I would be suddenly notified of an article that appeared in 2006, I really can’t say, but they come in at a fairly regular rate.

Today I got one that kind of spooked me, and impressed me in a way. It was a letter to the editor that I wrote to the New York Times in 1989. The letter was published and is apparently enshrined on their web site, since the link I got from Google took me there. I wonder how it got there. I believe in 1989 the internet was still a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye. So someone at the Times must have taken the time and trouble to scan it. Do you suppose they actually scan every line of type that has ever appeared all the way back to God knows when? Why it popped up now on Google alert is also a mystery.

I prefer to believe they only preserve the best of the best. The letter was actually pretty good and was written in response to a Times article or op ed, I don’t recall which, bashing neckties. My members took “anti-tie” rhetoric seriously and expected me to respond. I would have done so anyway since I have always loved neckties. I still do.

My members loved it. For years some them displayed it framed on their office walls.
I am glad, according to an article in the Times last week, that ties are making a comeback with the younger generation. That is a good thing.

Here is my 1989 letter to the editor that is permanently enshrined in the Time archive at least until the lights go out or they run out of band width:

To the Editor:

Why does something as seemingly mundane as a necktie get loaded with so much symbolic baggage? Through the years, ties have been seen as symbols of genteel birth, social rank, coming of age, blind following of tradition and, of course, male sexuality. In the 1960's, the tie was the symbol of the Establishment (negative). In the 80's, it represents power and financial success (positive).

Efforts have even been made to link trends in the economy to neckwear fashion. Do ties really get wider when the stock market is booming?

Greg Spring now equates neckties with the big lie (''A Diploma, a Tie and a Lie,'' Op-Ed, Sept. 19). He equates them with all of the currying and toadying to which one must stoop to make one's way in the world. We, of course, see the tie as the symbol of truth, justice and the American way.

No one inflicts all of this philosophy on shoes, shirts, hats or belts. Why neckties? Because there is an air of mystery and romance to neckties. They do not cover one's nakedness or add warmth on a blustery day. They definitely are not practical, nor are they particularly modern.

They are a link to the misty past when a knight strapped on his colors before setting forth to meet the world.

They are banners that proclaim just about any range of mood, emotion, or socioeconomic message that the wearer wishes to admit, or the viewer wishes to interpret. They are a celebration of color, beauty and tradition in an otherwise drab and rootless world.

Symbolism is attached to ties, because their function is largely symbolic. However, like beauty, symbolism is in the eye of the beholder: One man's big lie is another man's great tie. GERALD ANDERSEN Executive Director Neckwear Association of America New York, Sept. 19, 1989

Makes me want to go out and buy a Christmas necktie.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Honey, I Shrunk....

I am 5’9” tall, marked down from 5’11”

It’s no wonder I am always stepping on my trouser cuffs.

The 5’11” thing is a bit of an exaggeration. I was actually 5’10 ½” but always stretched it a half inch because it made me more comfortable about claiming I was “about” six feet tall.

I always wanted to make it to six feet and would hang from a bar in my bedroom doorway like a bat for hours at a time hoping to stretch out. Now, I am closer to 5’6”, the height of many an eighth grade girl, than I am to six feet.

I found this out at my physical several weeks ago. My doctor didn’t seem too concerned and attributed the shrinkage to “gravity.” This might have been going on for some time, since I don’t recall being measured at other physicals. I do recall being amazed that my son, Kristopher, seemed to continue growing well into his thirties. Obviously, I was going in the opposite direction.

It would be a lie to say that this hasn’t come as a blow to my ego. I don’t know why, since the only downside seems to be that it makes me more overweight than I already am since it knocks me into a lower category on the weight chart, as my doctor gleefully pointed out.

It’s also depressing to think that soon all those annoying short guys with short guy complexes are going to be taller than me. You know who I am talking about. I hope I don’t get a complex. I have enough problems.

I expressed my dismay to Kathie, and she was puzzled by it. Perhaps, she thinks I want to date tall women. It is just disconcerting to think that you are sinking into the ground like the wicked witch in the “Wizard of Oz”. Soon, my Yankee cap on the ground will be the only evidence of my existence.

A friend, in an effort to cheer me up, pointed out that I still have a long way to go before they ban me from the rides at Disney World.

I pointed out that a loss of 2 inches is a 3 per cent decline in my personal altitude. "Look at the bright side," he said,"your penis will look bigger." I hate optimists.

I recalled with anxiety the “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” the 1950’s thriller about a man who suffers radiation exposure and proceeds to shrink into oblivion. At one point he has to battle his own cat just to survive. Thank God our cat died.

I decided to fight back by joining the Y and hitting the gym. I seem to recall reading somewhere that resistance training is good for men of a certain age. I don’t recall if it had to do with shrinkage, or keeping joints flexible, or raising a flagging libido. What the hell, it’s all good.

Even if it doesn’t help with my elevation challenge, it may keep me from devolving into a beach ball as I shrink in one department and expand in another.

I decided to do the nautilus circuit. This is what I call it. I have no idea as to its real name. There are eighteen weight machines, each of which exercises a different muscle group. When you have completed the circuit, you have had a total workout. On the first day, Daryl, the trainer, set the machines up for me. I noted that he adjusted all of the height settings to the lower categories. I am just one or two settings away from having to wear elevator sneakers to use the equipment.

It’s enough to give one a sinking feeling.